Papa Bouba DiopGetty

Diop: Diao and Zakuani pay tribute to former Portsmouth and Fulham midfielder

Gabriel Zakuani and Salif Diao have paid tribute to former Portsmouth, Fulham and Senegal star Papa Bouba Diop.

The death of the midfielder was announced on Sunday evening at the age of 42 after battling a long illness.

Diao was a former teammate to Diop in the national team and they both were part of the Teranga Lions squad that reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup.

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The 43-year-old has recalled the time he spent with Diop in the national team and lauded his humility and bravery.

"Whenever we think about him it will be that angel face and that smile. He was that powerhouse - when we [the Senegal squad] sent someone to the opposition dressing room we would always send him because he was the biggest in the team," Diao said, as per BBC Sport.

"He would always try and have that angry face but it was funny because he couldn't do an angry face - so we would be behind him laughing because he was a powerhouse but with a babyface.

"When I heard the news my heart just felt shredded, he lived with bravery and humility and that's what we will remember."

"Just a fantastic moment a legendary moment and I can still see his smile and baby face - a real gentle giant and he was special.

"That's what makes that group so special - every single individual had something that we were adding into the group. For the battle for getting ready to go onto the field, he was the perfect guy who was really representing us.

"He was just so strong, so powerful - the symbols of Senegal are the Baobab tree and the lion - and so he was a perfect symbol for our team as he had the heart of a lion and the strength of the Baobab tree.

"With him in the team, we weren't scared of anyone. He made the whole nation happy and proud."

On his part, Zakuani has described Diop as one of the nicest human beings he has come across, having got to know him during his time at Fulham.

"When I went there he looked after me like a younger brother - showing me the ropes so it is sad to hear of his passing," Zakuani said.

"On the pitch, you think "a beast" just an animal smashing everything that's moving but as a person, he had nothing bad about him. He was just a proper nice person.

"I have never seen anyone have a bad word to say about him, he was just the nicest, kindest soul."